‘Cats in the Castle’ benefit for cat rescue organization

I was asked to speak at “Cats in the Castle” a wine-tasting benefit for Catales (Connecticut Association to Assure Love & End Suffering).


Cats in the Castle talk (Photos by Mary Johnson)

Thank you for having me here tonight. It’s a privilege to talk about my favorite subject.

My passion is cats. It’s a passion that most of us here tonight share. We can’t imagine our lives without a warm, purring creature at our side, in our lap, on our desk, or under our covers.

But there’s a flip side: Too often cats are considered disposable. And as a result, there’s a need for places like Catales – Connecticut Association to Assure Love & End Suffering. The Bad News:

• The American Bird Conservancy in a recent newsletter published a list of anti-cat articles, citing cases of rabies, cat bites, toxoplasmosis, defecating, and the Smithsonian Wildlife study that led to a “killer” label by the national media. Just in the last week, the organization cited studies from Hawaii and Britain that also blamed cats for declining bird populations.

• Loews Resorts in Florida ordered the dismantling of a well-established, well-maintained feral colony, saying that it was a danger to guests.

• A much-loved library cat in Swansee, Mass., is in danger of losing her home after 14 years as a result of a manipulative patron.

• 3,000 feral cats in Australia were exterminated to supposedly save a little marsupial, the bilbie and Gareth Morgan is calling for a ban on cats in New Zealand.

• In my town Branford, a longtime feral colony located in a trailer park was under the gun to be relocated due complaints by a couple of residents.

The Good News

• A group of architects in New York City got together with cat-colony experts and caretakers and submitted designs for some very cool community cat shelters

• Spartanburg, North Carolina, Animal Services has had 141 feral cats TNR’d and zero killed thus far in 2013.

• Students at Florida State University, known for its architecture by Frank Lloyd Wright, designed shelters inspired by the architect for campus community cats.

• Also in Florida, legislation is being considered that would offer protection to community cats. There was a spot on NPR just this morning, which, of course, was followed by a myriad of comments by cat bashers.

• The Stray Cat Alliance is working with schools in California to help students earn community service hours.

• Red Paw is working in Philadelphia in conjunction with the Red Cross to help people displaced by residential disaster.

Organizations like Alley Cat Allies, Alley Cat Rescue, Stray Cat Alliance, the Branford Compassion Club down where I live, and – why we’re here tonight – Catales –– work tirelessly. They are on call day and night to feed and care for these cats, pick up those that are dumped, and work like hell to give them a better life.

Their cats are health-checked, spayed or neutered, vaccinated and socialized before being placed in forever homes. Or they are released into carefully maintained colonies.

That takes a lot of money and many hands.

As Deb Bagley said, “They’ve had the worst, we want to offer them the best.”

It is safe to say that all of us here have cats for no other reason than to love and cherish them. Unfortunately, others don’t feel the same way.

Too often cats are quick to be dumped if they don’t fit our lifestyle, get along with the baby, cause allergies, have behavior issues, or yes, match the décor.

So the end result is overflowing shelters and colonies of community cats caused by people who think cats can take care of themselves. Nothing is further from the truth.

Many people are woefully uneducated when it comes to cat care. They get a cat because they think it is low maintenance and easier than caring for a dog… it doesn’t need to be walked or trained … it can take care of itself. You can just put a bowl of food down and walk away. Or maybe toss a toy.

Then there are the myths about cats, which can be perpetuated by a single newspaper article or off-hand comment.

• Cat are cold and aloof

• Cat suck the breath out of babies

• A pregnant woman should give up her cat

• It’s okay to declaw your cat

• Cats scratch the furniture or pee out of the litter box out of spite

You know that a cat lover can dispute each and every one of them in a heartbeat.

But people don’t make the effort to get help if there’s a behavior problem – if they did I wouldn’t need a day job – and too often the cat is tossed aside. People need to be educated.

Too often cats are considered disposable in today's society.

Too often cats are considered disposable in today’s society.

Stray cats and feral cats are a human problem. Feral colonies spring up because of human neglect, yet the cats are blamed for the resulting problems, including the declining songbird population from the studies I mentioned earlier.

According to Mike Fitzgerald and Dennis Turner: Any bird populations on the continents that could not withstand these levels of predation from cats and other predators would have disappeared a long time ago.

The wonderful thing about cats is that they respond in kind to the amount of attention they’re given. When you spend time with a cat, something magical happens.

It’s the mission of organizations like Catales to spread that magic … To provide cats with loving homes, far from the warehouses and back lots where many were found.

I tell my kitties every day: You don’t know how much you’re loved and how good you have it. And I would wish the same for all cats.


About ExclusivelyCats
Sally Bahner is an expert in all aspects of cat care: Writer, consultant, speaker, instructor.

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